Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Dame Joan Evans Viennese Chain, 1650-1840

The Victoria & Albert Museum
I’d have loved to have seen Dame Joan Evans’ jewel case. Fortunately, much of her impressive collection of jewels are on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Let’s take a look an a gorgeous Austrian chain which was made originally in 1650.

A beautiful work of enameled gold links form a chain, the front face is set with rose-cut diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The center four links made are original to the 1650 jewel, the end links were additions made in Vienna, about 1840.

The Art of Play: The Travellers of Europe, with Improvements and Additions, 1849

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Board games have been around for centuries. Here’s one from 1849 which was made in Britain. Five players were assigned the parts of “The Travellers,” who are from different nations, Austria, Sweden, Russia, Prussia and England. The travelers then must make their way to their respective capital cities beginning from a different city in Africa, or, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The game was played with a spinner with four sides marked N,S,E,W representing the directions they must move in.

Actually, this is a later edition of the game entitled `The Travellers: or, a “Tour Through Europe,” which was issued on December 1st 1842. The set includes its original rule book which is inscribed in ink inside the front cover, “Mary Crewdson Cowherd from her Aunt Henry Fox Octr. 28, 1854.”

Gifts of Grandeur: The Eugène de Beauharnais Bonbonnière, 1809-1819

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This mighty fancy candy dish was made between 1809 and 1819. The portrait atop the lid depicts Eugène de Beauharnais, the stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte through his first wife Josephine. Eugène remained a staunch supporter of his step-father, engaging on the Emperor’s behalf in a number of notable battles. Eugène was viceroy of Italy for many years, but following the overthrow of Napoleon, he took refuge in Munich where he died at the age of 43.

The cameo that we see was carved by Giovanni Beltrami (1779-1854) who trained as a stone-cutter under the celebrated Giovanni Pichler. Beltrami was so skilled that he was said to be able to cut twenty figures on a single stone and is known to have created a miniature version of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper on a topaz. Beltrami was favored by a number of European monarchs, but none more so than the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth.

This attractive vessel, in addition to the cameo features a base of pierced and chased gold, and, on the lid, a frame of  pearls, turquoise, agate, enamel, and glass.

Painting of the Day: The Emperor of Austria ascending the Great Pyramid, 1869

The Victoria & Albert Museum
This pencil and watercolor scene by William R. I. Simpson has an interesting history. The creation of the piece was described in “The Illustrated London News” in December of 1869.”

Mr. Simpson was known for his sense of humor and his particular eye for the absurd, He was quoted as follows during a visit to Egypt in 1869: “I went out one day and saw the Emperor of Austria lugged to the top of the Great Pyramid by two Arabs as if he had been only an overland passenger.”

This was a common practice at the time. In fact, it was a common practice for tourists to be dragged to the top of the pyramid until very recently. But, for an Emperor to be hauled in such an undignified manner struck Mr. Simpson as quite ridiculous and unceremonious.

What brought Emperor Franz Josef to Egypt? He was one of many European Royals and dignitaries in Egypt in November of 1869 for the opening of the Suez Canal which replaced the extremely inconvenient “Overland Route” via Cairo and across the desert on the way to India.

William Simpson was a lithographer and prolific watercolor painter, who would ultimately become what we would no now label a “war-correspondent,” traveling the world to cover wars and news for London newspapers—transferring the events into vigorous sketches which were neatly transformed into wood-engravings.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 406

Odo’s ability to creep behind Mama Routhe was somewhat impaired behind his intoxicated state. Of all of the things about himself in which Odo took pride—and, there were many—it was his skills as a lurker of which he was the proudest. Odo, of course, also prided himself in his capacity for spirits. However, after his ordeal with the authorities who had hauled him off upon finding the murdered Agnes Rittenhouse, his nerves were more rattled than usual. Naturally, he imbibed more than usual, and was, therefore, not at his best.

Now, Mama Routhe was no fool. While not quite as developed as Marjani’s, Mama had a sense about things that were to come. Considering, also, that the child she held in her arms had already been taken from her once before by Nellie, she was sure to be especially careful as she traveled to the safe house.

Odo’s uneven footsteps alerted Mama that she was being followed. She didn’t bother to look over her shoulder. She knew without looking that the clacking feet that followed her through the night were not approaching to offer assistance.

But, Mama—again, being no fool—didn’t engage in the obvious reaction of quickening her step. “Why should I done give him power over me?” She thought to herself. So, instead of walking faster, she began to weave—walking from banquette to banquette, turning into alleys and coming out again, lazily circling boxes and lamps and obstacles.

Odo, being utterly drunk, found these tactics to be not only annoying, but quite dizzying.

Mama grinned to herself when she heard the footsteps behind her pause and, then, the vile sound of retching.

At that moment, she began to quicken her steps and, within a few minutes, felt the rough wood of the door on her fingers as she knocked the special knock of the safe house.

Sighing with relief, the door closing behind her, she proudly held Colin up for her friends to see.

“We gonna help a for true English duke!”

A buzz of excitement arose in the dim room as half a dozen happy faces greeted Mama and Colin.

Odo—poor, sick, awful, wicked Odo—shivered in the cold and wiped his mouth. Vomiting had, actually, made him feel a little better and he began to study his surroundings.

“Where’d she…” Odo began aloud, and then he realized where he was.

There was only one place for a woman like Mama Routhe to be going at that hour of the night. Odo’d never been there himself. He was quite content in service to the Cages’ and saw no reason to be free. In fact, he’d fight anyone who tried to take him from the comfort of the Cages’ two opulent mansions. But, he knew about the safe house. He’d heard those he considered weak and disloyal talking about it.

“You ain’t gonna get away from Odo,” He slurred loudly as he stumbled forward.

Did you miss Chapters 1-405? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, December 5, 2011 for Chapter 407 of Punch’s Cousin.

Obscure Book of the Day: Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elizabeth

The twenty-fourth in the “Royal Romances: The Love Affairs that Shaped History” tells the tale of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef and his wife/cousin, the Empress Elisabeth. Their story is…well…ummm…not too pleasant.

Let’s start at the beginning (sort of). Franz Josef I was born in 1830 in the Schönbrunn Palace (which I best know, really, in the context of Britain’s Queen Mary who was a guest there a few times) in Vienna. Franz was the oldest son of Archduke Franz Karl (the youngest son of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II), and Princess Sophie of Bavaria.

Now, what else was going on in Austria-Hungary at the time? Anyone remember the Emperor Ferdinand? He was considered, for lack of a better term, “weak minded.” And, to be honest, the Archduke Franz Karl was considered rather lazy and shy. So, a lot fell on Franz Josef’s shoulders very early in his life. Of course, his mother, Sophie, was incredibly overbearing, and as soon as Franz Josef was old enough, all he heard was, and I paraphrase, “Get married would ya? Look how pretty your cousins are!” Sophie wanted heirs and she wanted them NOW. Franz Josef’s mother favored her sister’s eldest daughter as the best bride for her son, you know, as one does. But, Franz considered the younger of his cousins, Elisabeth, to be the more attractive. Sophie—she was not pleased. Elisabeth of Bavaria was not considered gentile enough for court life. However, she relented and Franz Josef and Elisabeth married.

(By the way, I have had to retype the name Josef each time now. After 37 years of writing my own name, I naturally go for the “ph.” Long live the digraph!)

So, Franz Josef and Elizabeth marry, and, they don’t really get along. It seems Sophie was right, Elisabeth was not cut out for court life. Lots of arguments ensued. Then, they lost a child. They, would later lose their only son to a reported, but questioned, “suicide.” Elisabeth grew distant and spent as little time at home as possible, focusing on her great passion for fashion. And, then, to top it all off, the Empress Elisabeth was stabbed to death in 1898 by an Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni. And, that was that.

Later, Franz Josef claimed that, “"You will never know how much I loved this woman." I don’t think anyone really believed it, but that’s what he supposedly claimed after Elizabeth’s assassination.

And, so, let’s take a look at the book…

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The “Assiette Montée” Centerpiece, 1851

Made for Minton, 1851
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A magnificently tiered centerpiece, this work by Minton was designed for a dessert service in the style which the famed manufacturer called an “assiette montée.” It served a dual purpose, intended both as a table ornament and for serving sweetmeats or fruit.

Designed for Minton by figure-modeler Pierre-Emile Jeannest (1813-1857), this is one of his finest works. Jeannest was the son of a French bronzier, was also a pupil of Delaroche, and worked for Minton for several years between about 1848 and 1854. The piece was painted by Thomas Kirkby (1824-1890) who was Minton’s premier painter for over 50 years.

The centerpiece is part of a 116-piece dessert service shown by Minton at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was later displayed by Queen Mary at Marlborough House who admired it because of its “successful turquoise colour” and because it was “the highest state of English ceramic manufacture.”

Years before Queen Mary’s admiration of the piece, Queen Victoria had been so struck by the appearance of the entire service when she attended the preview of the Great Exhibition that she and Prince Albert immediately purchased it. Later, Queen Victoria presented portions of the set to the Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria (r. 1848-1916) and his consort, the Empress Elisabeth.

The centerpiece is exceptional in its combination of glazed and decorated bone china with unglazed Parian figures. The judges at the Great Exhibition lauded its “original design, high degree of beauty and harmony of effect” as well as its “bleu celeste” (turquoise colour).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mastery of Design: A Miniature of Victoria, the Princess Royal from Queen Victoria's Bracelet,

Queen Victoria's Bracelet, 1845
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

On May 24, 1845, Prince Albert presented his beloved wife, Queen Victoria with a gold, enamel and pearl bracelet created from miniature portraits of their children.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This particular link depicts Victoria, the Princess Royal, the first of the couple’s children. The portrait is the work of William Essex (1784–1869) who worked the enamel himself.

It is signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: Victoria / Princess Royal / 1845 / Painted by W. Essex / Enl painter to H.[R.H.] Prince [Albert].

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The Family Punch, c. 1801

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Well, this rather explains itself from a character standpoint. Here, we see Punch, Judy and Dog Toby in happier times, probably before the birth of the baby. This color print (the more I read and write about British history, art, and general stuff, the more inclined I am to put extra u’s and l’s in things) dates to about 1801. It has been cut from a book or picture sheet and mounted on pink paper, probably in the later Nineteenth Century.

The figures are embossed to give them added dimension.

And, it just makes me happy.

Friday Fun: Kaiser Frederick III and Princess Victoria

Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William
Franz Xaver Winterhaler, 1862
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty,
Queen Elizabeth II
This beautifully made little video is a wonderful slideshow of Victoria, the Princess Royal and her husband, Emperor Frederick William, King of Prussia. You’ve seen most of the images of Princess Victoria on this web site. They’re not credited in the video. And, even though I didn’t make the video, my friendly relationship with the Royal Collection and Historic Royal Palaces compels me to note that they are, in fact, all “Crown Copyright.” As for the images of Frederick III, I don’t know where they came from.

Nevertheless, it’s a great video and rather soothing, too. Enjoy!

Unfolding Pictures: The Empress Frederick William Iron Fan, 1862

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This unusual fan is made of cast iron filigree with floral and architectural motifs. The individual blades of thin iron are held together with ribbon at the top and a pin at the bottom. This was one of a pair designed by Edward Schott at Ilsenburg-am-Harz as an example of the fineness which could be achieved with iron castings.

This other of the two fans was shown at the International Exhibition of 1862. This example was presented to Princess Frederick William (later the Empress Frederick William) of Prussia (1840-1901), formerly Victoria, the Princess Royal, Queen Victoria's eldest daughter.

The identical fan is now in MAK: Austria’s Museum of Applied Art in Vienna.

The reverse of the fan, which looks a lot like the front.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 405

Here,” Punch began, “Marjani, you got some kind of way of knowin’ where people are, you do. Have you got any notion where Cecil and Adrienne are?”

Marjani shook her head. “It ebbs and flows, Mr. Punch.”

“Coo, but maybe if you think on it real good…”

“I’ll see.” Marjani smiled a tired grin.

“Poor Marjani, you gotta be all kinds of worn out.”

“I ain’t so very tired, Mr. Punch.” Marjani shook her head. “No more so than you. Now, let me just think on it for a moment.”

“Sure,” Punch nodded eagerly.

“Holy Mother,” Marjani mumbled. “Help us find those who seek.”

“Would it help if I did it, too?” Punch interrupted. “I ‘member when you taught me ‘bout prayin’, I do.”

“Sure it would.” Marjani chuckled. “But, do it nice and quiet. The powers got ears that can hear every little thing.”

“I understand.” Punch replied even though he didn’t. “Holy Lady Chum, help us find our other chums what’s seekin’.” He looked at Marjani. “Did I do it right?”

“You did jus’ fine, Sir.” Marjani nodded. She began to squint.

“You got somethin’ in your eye?” Punch asked.

“I do.” Marjani smiled. “Somethin’ good.” She pointed into the mist ahead of them.

Punch looked to see two frazzled figures hurrying toward them.

“Cecil!” Punch shouted.

“Mon Dieu! It’s Punch and Marjani!” Adrienne howled with relied as she and Cecil rushed forward. “I’ve been…” She began to sob, throwing her arms around Marjani and burying her face into the woman’s shoulder.

“Steady on, darling.” Cecil said warmly.

“Listen,” Punch said excitedly. “Colin’s safe and we know that Fuller’s with that horrible woman what’s called Ulrika.”

“Ulrika!” Cecil snapped.

“Gamilla think she’s ‘robably on her way back to Marionneaux.”

“And, then, so shall we.” Cecil barked.

“Not without us, you’re not.” Punch shook his head.

“No, you’ve got to get Colin back to England. The ship departs tomorrow.” Adrienne said, looking up and wiping her eyes with her fingertips.

“How could we leave knowing your boy is still missing? He ain’t me blood nephew, but he’s me nephew still the same.”

“If we go now, maybe we can all get on that ship with everyone we love,” Adrienne said.

“How?” Cecil asked. “We can’t very well go back to our house and fetch one of our horses. Edward Cage will attack us immediately.”

“No he won’t.” Marjani smiled. “He got shot in the leg. He ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

“Please tell me that my brother didn’t…” Cecil began.

“Naw, it was Mrs. Cage—the life drainin’ out of her from the Yellow Jack—she still had the strength for to help us.” Marjani replied.

“Well, then, let’s hurry.” Adrienne exclaimed. “Get the fastest horse we have! She couldn’t have gotten too far!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-404? If so, you can read them here.

Obscure Book of the Day: Princess Victoria and Kaiser Frederick

Traditionally, British princesses were married to “foreign” princes. It was considered a good way to expand the bloodline and form favorable ties with other empires. Germany, it seems, was thick with princes. So, by the time Queen Victoria ascended the throne, let’s be honest, her bloodline was more German than it was British, and then, she married a German Prince.

So, when it came time for the eldest daughter of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria to marry, the natural inclination was to match her up with a German Prince (also a Prince of Prussia) who would eventually ascend as Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia. Enter Prince Frederick. Queen Victoria liked the idea. Prince Albert definitely liked the idea. And, no one was happier than Uncle Leopold who had arranged the marriage of Victoria and Albert and who had long been a champion of getting a German stronghold on the British throne.

Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick greatly admired the relationship of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and decided that when Frederick ascended the throne of Germany they would rule in a similar Monarch/Consort arrangement as Princess Victoria’s parents. They waited 30 years for their chance. In 1888, Frederick and Victoria ascended as Emperor and Empress of Germany and King and Queen of Prussia. But, then, after 99 days on the throne, Frederick died a painful, horrible death from cancer of the larynx at the age of 57. And, that was that.

Princess Victoria remained in Germany throughout her widowhood. She kept constant communication via post with her mother and her younger brother, the future King Edward VII. Victoria would die in 1901 after suffering for two years from breast cancer.

The twenty-fifth in the series “Royal Romances: The Love Affairs that Shaped History” chronicles the relationship of Princess Victoria and Kaiser Frederick.

Let’s take a look inside:

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Miniature of the Eye of Princess Victoria, 1857

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
We’ve looked at a variety of miniature eyes. This beautiful example is attributed to Sir William Charles Ross (1794-1860) and depicts the eye of Victoria, Princess Royal (1840-1901), the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Princess Royal would later become Empress Frederick III of Germany.

This watercolor on ivory miniature is laid on card and mounted in a gold pendant set with a ruby. The Royal Collection lists the creation of the piece as 1857 and notes that it was commissioned by Queen Victoria.

Typically these miniature eyes were given as tokens to a male suitor. The date of creation puts this piece smack dab in the middle of the engagement of Victoria and Albert’s daughter to the Prince Frederick of Prussia (The German Emperor and King of Prussia) who were engaged in 1856 and married in 1858. It’s a safe bet that this miniature was intended for the future Kaiser Frederick III. Whether or not he received it, I don’t know, but it’s back in the Royal Collection.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: No One Cares Where the Shoe Pinches

"Look, kid, do what I do when my dad tries to put 'booties' on me. Shake all of your legs, one at a time, and pretend he's crippled you. Easy ticket to cookies and guilt."
*Click above image to enlarge*

Image: No One Knows Where the Shoe Pinches But Him Who Wears It, Alexander Farmer, 1867, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: A Commesso Cameo of Queen Victoria, 1851

This and all related images courtesy of The Victoria & Albert Museum

This beautiful brooch is set with a commesso (a type of cameo further decorated with enameled gold and jewels developed in Florence during the Italian Renaissance) portrait of Queen Victoria. The shell cameo is mounted in gold, enameled and set with table-cut and cabochon emeralds and rose-cut diamonds.

The shell cameo is further embellished with enameled gold, diamonds and emeralds, and the gold frame is decorated with enameled roses of Lancaster and York. On the reverse, the cameo is signed : “Paul Lebas / Graveur / 1851 / Paris.” The gold mount is struck with the maker's mark of Felix Dafrique with a French export mark.

The design of the cameo is based on a portrait of Her Majesty in Garter Robes by Thomas Sully, painted 1838. It is believed that the French jeweler Félix Dafrique showed this brooch at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. This assumption is based on the fact that he received a Prize Medal for his “polychromic cameos” as well as the date of creation.